Discover more from Letters To My Brother
What does it mean to "be a writer"?
I make my own rules...or at least I tell myself that.
Happy New Year,
When I was writing my book I decided I would need to set different benchmarks of success. There’s all sorts of ways this could be done: sales, copies sold, reviews received. The sky's the limit. When you write your own book, you get to decide what success means. Your book, your rules. So I decided at the start that finishing the novel would be a success all by itself. If all it ever did was sit on a hard-drive or float in cloud storage, that would be enough.
It seems well documented that writers struggle with being writers. What I mean is that, despite assurances, there’s something lurking inside us that wonders if we’ve finally become good enough to wear the title. In reality, the only requirement necessary to be a writer is to write. That’s it. Pen to paper, keystroke to screen. Whatever.
It’s the act of the thing, not the end result that earns you a spot in the club.
In his post Jumping Off The Cliff, (Hoarse Whisperer), the author describes a scene between him and his son. In his heart, the author wants to be a writer, but… Well - just read it for now.
I confessed all of that to him.
I told him that I didn’t know what I wanted to do or how to even figure it out. I sort of rambled about how I felt at loose ends…
He asked some probing questions about what I thought the possibilities might be. I mentioned writing and then hemmed, hawed, qualified, and disclaimed it with all of the reasons that probably couldn’t work.
He said “Dad, if you want to be a writer, go be a writer…”
I sort of looked down, ready to reflexively explain why it wasn’t that easy when he added, “…but go do it.”
Good advice from a wise kid. Still, it can be a scary thing to do. That self doubt is real. Imposter syndrome is real. And even when you do your absolute best, it will likely fall short of the vision inside you, which can mess with you in its own special way.
Sometimes I feel like I’m a disappointment to my own story. I have no doubt I put forth my very best effort, but there’s a part of me that wonders if the story would have been better served in the hands of a more skilled writer. Did I bumble the plot? Was my prose clunky? Did I make rookie mistakes and ruin the experience for the reader?
This was the story that came to me. Yes, it came out of my head, that’s true. But it also feels like it came through me. I’m not sure why it works this way, but it does. The story is its own thing, it has a life all its own. It’s the writer's job to uncover it, carefully, considerately.
As odd as it feels to say it, I hope All That Is Common To Man is my worst book. I hope I’ve learned something and can apply those lessons to new projects. There’s more to uncover. There’s room to grow. And at the end of the day, I just want to be a part of that writing community.
Thankfully, the price of admission is to just do the thing and write.